The month of September in New York is usually filled with diplomats from all over the world, gathered for the United Nations General Assembly and its numerous fringe events. Instead, this year’s UNGA will be held virtually, focusing on the global response to COVID-19 and the subsequent economic recovery.

The year 2020 was meant to usher in the Climate Decade. However, the question now is whether current events have shifted priorities for the next 10 years.

Last Monday, Climate Week NYC, the world’s biggest climate summit, held in parallel with UNGA, officially began. This landmark event brings business and government leaders together to showcase feasible and long-term solutions to our climate crisis.

The urgency of an inclusive green economic recovery has never been more pressing. A circular economy has the potential to reduce poverty and inequality – and maybe one day overcome it entirely.

Developing countries are continuously faced with an array of socio-economic and environmental challenges, posing considerable threats to the livelihood of many. It therefore comes as no surprise that to achieve a more just and sustainable society, we must shift away from ‘business as usual’ strategies and instead opt for alternative models where climate resilient societies are able to thrive.

A green economy in practice would be able to deliver a ‘trifecta’ society, in which economic growth would be coupled with environmental protection as well as social inclusion. The reality is a little more complicated.

This is where responsible and targeted investments can have a lasting effect, where public and private investments, dedicated to the right kind of initiatives, are capable of alleviating environmental pressures while facilitating social inclusion.

These could be directed towards urban planning, circular infrastructure, or sustainable fisheries – issues of particular importance for communities that suffer the most from environmental degradation.

The only way we will be able to achieve an inclusive and circular economy is through a system-wide approach. That means all levels of society – from communities to corporations and governments – are expected to play their part. If we do not act as one, those most disenfranchised in our current economic system will have no way of feeling empowered in our new one.

International coordination and inclusivity will pave the way for a sustainable, and successful recovery. And if anything, COVID-19 has shown us that we must be more adaptable and flexible – no one must be left behind.